video game marketing

Movie Marketing: Video Game Tie-Ins Done Well

Gaming tie-ins for movie franchises have existed for nearly as long as people have been playing video games. When done well, these media can blend to create a hybrid marketing approach that will reach a wide audience.

The most common and familiar method of video game marketing is the tie-in game, which is produced and sold after the movie is released. These range from straightforward console adventures to immersive MMO games like Lord of the Rings Online or the now-defunct Matrix game universe. Occasionally, these games go on to take a life of their own, becoming a franchise in their own right.

A more recent trend in video game film marketing is more creative and flexible: creating social games to entice casual gamers. Facebook games and smartphone apps reach a wider potential audience than console games, and they can generate a sort of viral marketing frenzy that any film marketer would be glad to launch.

Social games usually rely on player interaction to solve puzzles or complete basic adventures. When these games are designed around a film or television show, they can incorporate elements of the story into the game to pique the player’s attention and create a sense of investment. Because of the social element of casual gaming, these apps entice players to talk about the game and its associated film, which can generate much-needed word of mouth and marketing buzz. This effect is multiplied when the game requires a collaborative effort for fans to solve clues or puzzles related to the game.

Successful Video Game Marketing Campaigns

Recently, The Fast and the Furious 6: The Game has earned a healthy following of casual players. Other successful casual gaming franchises include the nine-week episodic Salt tie-in, Day X Exists, and Disney’s Tron-based social game. Television shows like Dexter and Spartacus have also employed the casual gaming strategy to keep fans engaged between seasons, and the console adaptation of The Walking Dead earned an incredible amount of critical acclaim.

Of course, there are some limitations to what these games can do for a film. For the most part, video game tie-ins of all kinds primarily attract dedicated fans. It’s unlikely that someone unfamiliar or uninterested in an upcoming film will seek out these games, and most of the hardcore player base will be made of people who had planned to see the film anyway.

Where the marketing potential comes is from the friends and acquaintances of these die-hard fans. As these people see their friend playing the game, they may develop some curiosity for the game itself or the world it’s set in. If nothing else, they’ll have some name recognition for the film when it’s released.

Tips for Creating a Promotional Game:

  • Keep the target audience of both the film and game in mind. Certain types of games appeal more to certain demographics in players, and it won’t help you to market a film to players who won’t be interested in watching it. Unlike console games, a large percentage of social gamers are women. Social gamers also span a wide age range.
  • Match the tone of the game to that of the film. You don’t want to misrepresent the film by creating a game that’s wildly different, even if the game itself is quite good. A fun, lighthearted social game will not generate the right audience for a gore-heavy action thriller.
  • Provide an ample budget for the game and find a good developer, ideally one who has graduated from game design school or at least has a lot of prior experience. If you can’t afford to make a high-quality marketing game, it’s best not to attempt it at all. A badly made or overly cheesy game runs a high risk of creating a negative image for your film before it even comes out, which can drive away viewers who might otherwise have been interested in the movie.
  • Whenever possible, reward players for following through at the box office. With mobile devices becoming increasingly popular gaming platforms, it’s easy to provide rewards to your players. Try incorporating a code that will unlock a bonus level or special perks and make that code available only to people who watch the film. Before the movie starts, have the code displayed for viewers to input on their phones, or enable the ability to text before or after the film to receive special perks.

Video game marketing is not the right strategy for every film, but it can be a very powerful tool when used correctly and aimed at the right audience. Putting some careful thought into the benefits and logistics of developing a tie-in game can lead to substantial rewards once the film has been released.

How To Be The Best Marketer For Your Video Game

Pax Australia convention

If there’s one thing a lot of indie game developers are learning the hard way, it’s that making a game is only the first step to success. There’s a reason why we live in a world full of YouTube ads, TV commercials, and companies paying millions for just 30 seconds of time during the Super Bowl—promotion works. The same goes for video games, which means that if you don’t make sure people hear about your game, few people are going to discover it.

We’ve previously covered everything an independent team should know about promoting their game. But what we haven’t talked about before is what to look for in the individual/s who will be in charge of spreading the word. Whether it’s one of the developers or you someone you bring in to do the job, below are five requirements we feel every good game marketer should try to fulfill.

The Marketer Understands the Community

Show us a successful game, big-budget or independent, and we’ll show you a game that has a strong community. The fact is, there are few industries out there that have communities as active and invested in the products as video games. From writing reviews and creating fan art to following social media pages and providing feedback, gamers are a very involved bunch.

BlizzCon 2014

This means that without support from the gaming community, it’s likely that your project will fade away into obscurity in no time. Whoever is promoting your game needs to recognize what works to get people interested in your game, while at the same time being careful not to bring in negative attention. Who could forget the ex-Microsoft guy who mocked people living in places with poor internet connects?

The Marketer Understands the Game Enough to Make It Sound Amazing.

At first glance this may seem like a no brainer, especially if the person tasked with marketing duties is also helping out with art, programming, and more. Boasting a solid team of indie developers who are all equally excited about the project, you might feel confident that any one of them can promote the game without a problem.

However, your marketer should understand the game so well that he or she can make it sound attractive to anyone. In a world where 2D retro platformers are all over the place, your marketer must be able to highlight your game’s strengths and why it’s different (and better) than the rest. If they don’t truly grasp what makes your game amazing, it will be hard for them to explain the game in a way that pulls in new audiences.

The Marketer Can Deal with Negative Feedback.

No matter how amazing your game is, someone is bound to come along and tell you why they hate it. This is rarely a surprise most people have encountered a game at some point they couldn’t stand, even though everyone else thought it was great. The problem is when the person in your team interacting with the community doesn’t know how to take negative feedback.

If your marketer has a hard time not taking feedback personally, they may not be the one for the job. Find (or be) someone who can set aside her or his feelings and instead focus on what the people are trying to say. Instead of allowing negative feedback to discourage you and your team, see it as constructive criticism that can help you to improve your game.

The Marketer is Actively Promoting During Development.

As we’ve touched on before, teams that don’t begin marketing their game until after it is completed are at a severe disadvantage. Your promoter should be doing whatever it takes to spread news of the game long before its release date. This way you’ll already have a group of people anticipating its release and hopefully telling others to pick it up as well. The marketer should also be making use of every tool available in this day and age.

A Facebook page and email account isn’t enough anymore—there’s a ton of people you’ll only reach if you also have accounts for other popular sites and social media pages like Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, and many more. You may also want to attend conventions that welcome independent games. Promoting a game properly is busy work, which means your marketer should be willing to dedicate several hours a week to the task.

Learn the skills you need to succeed as a game designer at the Game Design School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.